HomeHealth & BehaviorSocial Skills

Ask the Experts

When should I intervene if children are fighting?

By Dr. Ron Taffel, Family Therapist


Is parent intervention advisable when children have verbal disputes or when it seems that a child is being excluded? Should one parent talk to another parent about her child's behavior, particularly when it is hurtful to another child?


At this age many kids still welcome our input - ask yours whether it's OK. But be careful when you speak to the other parent not to sound overly protective and blaming. (It's easy for all of us to come across this way.) Phrase your concern like this: "Can you help me with my child?" Most parents will respond positively to a positive approach. Listen well, then get creative together: a quick weekend dinner, another brief play date. Don't be afraid to tell your child about the conversation and the new plans. When the kids get together again, watch their interaction and perhaps you can see what else could be discussed, kindly and gently, with your child afterward. For example: "I know it's hard for you to share that special toy - would you feel better if we put it away next time?" Parents can be of real help to each other, if we just learn how to ask for help - and isn't that a life lesson our kids should learn?

Dr. Ron Taffel is a noted child and family therapist, and author of Parenting by Heart, Why Parents Disagree, Nurturing Good Children Now, The Second Family, and a guide for child professionals, Getting Through to Difficult Kids and Parents. He consults with and lectures at schools and community organizations around the country. He lives with his wife and children in New York City.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.